An Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor damaged six years ago when it skidded across a runway on its belly could return to service soon as repairs to the aircraft were completed in March.
The US Air Force said that the aircraft is in depot at Hill AFB, Utah awaiting scheduled upgrades, according to a presentation given at the Aircraft Airworthiness and Sustainment Conference on 26 April 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida.
It is not clear when the aircraft would return to a squadron. The USAF did not immediately respond to questions about the stealth fighter rejoining its fleet.
Repairs on the F-22 began not long after a trainee pilot at Tyndall AFB, Florida, attempted a touch-and-go landing, but mistakenly retracted the landing gear before advancing the throttle to military power on 31 May 2012. The aircraft belly flopped on its metallic and carbonfibre belly and skidded 853m (2,800ft) down the runway until stopping. The pilot then exited the aircraft without injury by raising the canopy.
Major structural damage, internal and external, along the underside of the aircraft was discovered after the crash. A team of USAF, Lockheed and Boeing structural repair experts analysed the damages and valued the repair work at about $35 million, including repairing scratches to the skins of the wing and the stabilator, as well as replacing the skins and doors of the central and aft fuselage.
Airworthiness will be certified through a Modification Airworthiness Certification Criteria determination board, according to the presentation. The USAF anticipates the aircraft will be restored to its original certified service life without incurring any additional maintenance or inspections.
The upcoming return of the aircraft to service comes as another F-22 experienced a similar mishaps in April 2018, skidding on its belly across the runway of NAS Fallon near Reno, Nevada on after takeoff.